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Sussen Is Now Free of Jews:

World War II, The Holocaust, and Rural Judaism

Gilya Gerda Schmidt

Publication Year: 2012

Sussen Is Now Free of Jews offers a close look at the legacy of a few Jewish families from Sussen-a village in the District of Goppingen, which is located in the state of Baden Wurttemberg in southern Germany. The author, Gilya Gerda Schmidt, looks at this rural region through the lens of two Jewish families-the Langs and the Ottenheimers-who settled there in the early twentieth century. As a child, she shared with the Langs the same living space for just a few months. She remembers her mother's telling her of the Jews who lived in Sussen until the Holocaust. More than thirty years later, in a used bookstore in Knoxville, Tennessee, the author accidentally found documentation verifying the Jewish presence in a book about the surviving Jews of Wurttemberg. In it, she found confirmation that there had been Jews living in Sussen until the Holocaust. For the first time, she had the proof she needed to look into the reality behind this lingering mystery. Here began her detective-like journey to find out what happened to the Jews of Sussen. A decade of research into local and regional archives ensued, and this very penetrating study is the result. In it, the author attempts to shed light on not just the original question of what happened to the two families during the Holocaust but also on a host of other questions: What was it like to be Jewish in rural southern Germany a century ago? What were the Jewish traditions of this region? What were the relations between Jews and Christians before the Holocaust? And where did those family members who were able to escape or who survived the concentration camps go when they left Sussen or Goppingen? Few witnesses came forward, yet the documents in the archives spoke volumes. This micro-history records the not-so-romantic journey of two Jewish families who lived in the Fils Valley. The study also addresses issues of being an American prisoner of war; of resuming life after the Holocaust; of the bureaucratic nightmare of requisitions, restitution, and reparations; and of life in America. This unique book will be of interest to a general readership and is an important book for scholars in German and Holocaust studies.

Published by: Fordham University Press

frontispiece, title page, copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Foreword: Siezzon—Not Always a Good Grazing Land

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pp. vii-viii

During the persecution of the Jews in the Nazi period, dark spots also formed on the clean vest of Süssen, a small village in the center of southern Germany. At the bottom of a list of names of the sixteen deported Jews, to whom an additional name has to be added, we read in perfect Sütterlin handwriting the cynical sentence, “Süssen is now free of Jews!” ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xvi

In spite of our reliance on technology, a project of any kind takes people to succeed, and a project that deals with the fate of human beings and requires a detailed understanding of how a particular local system functions, even more so. Most important for the success of this kind of project are those people who have intimate knowledge ...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-15

Geographical entities often gain recognition for some unique feature. The district of Göppingen, located in the middle of Baden-Württemberg in the southwestern part of Germany, is known for its connection to the distant past. Hardly a week goes by without a report or article about a new archaeological find, ...

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1. Post-Nazi Süssen: An Attempt at Reconciliation

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pp. 16-23

In 1981 the picturesque town of Süssen, located within view of the famous butte that once was the home of Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa (1123–90) and the Hohenstaufen monarchy, began dealing with its past by unveiling a bronze fountain in the market square that depicts fifteen highlights from the town’s history ...

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2. A Village Called Süssen

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pp. 24-38

An erstwhile resident of Süssen who reads Johann Georg Fischer’s poem, no matter the reason for his or her leaving, will recognize the sentiment. Although Hugo Lang, who was forced to leave, and I, who chose to leave, have been graciously welcomed back upon our return, the sentiment expressed in Fischer’s poem resonates. ...

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3. Klein-Süssen: The Ottenheimer Family

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pp. 39-65

December 23, 2007. As the charter plane from Miami touched down in Havana, Cuba, I was wondering what my visit with ninety-one-year-old Werner Ottenheimer would bring. It was a slightly overcast day, with temperatures in the eighties, and I had to go through a very elaborate customs inspection. ...

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4. Gross-Süssen: The Lang Families, 1902–37

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pp. 66-94

Although Rabbi Tänzer in his history of Göppingen cites from earlier sources that there had been a Jewish community in Göppingen and Geislingen at the time of the Black Death, there is no such paper trail for Süssen. 2 This in spite of the fact that a 1926 source discusses the presence of Jews in Gross-Eislingen in 1526, ...

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5. Süssen under the Nazis: The Lang Families, 1937–41

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pp. 95-141

Dealing in livestock was big business in the rural areas of southern Germany. Cattle dealers were a breed all of their own, with a friendly personality, a keen sense of business, and a close network of associates.3 During a 2006 conference in Rexingen survivor families described some of the details of the prewar cattle trade to their audience.4 ...

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6. Hugo Lang’s Escape and Life in the United States

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pp. 142-163

After the departure of Henny, Inge, and Manfred, the only member of the Lang family who still succeeded in getting a visa was Hugo (Jehudo ben Arje), the second son of Leopold, even though all members of his family had applied for visas in August, 1938. His number on the waiting list of the American Consulate in Stuttgart was 17449.1 ...

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7. Deportation of the Lang Families

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pp. 164-180

The sordid details of deportation on Friday, November 28, 1941, are murky at best. There are no eyewitnesses who survived the war or who are willing to step forward and share what they know. Only one former neighbor of the Lang family told me in 1999 that Louis came to her father around midnight in order to say goodbye. ...

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8. Lang Family Liberation, Requisitions, and Restitution

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pp. 181-216

Concentration camps and death camps in Eastern Europe were liberated by the Russian army more than half a year before the camps in the West, where World War II raged on for almost another year after the invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, and the subsequent Battle of the Bulge. ...

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9. Lang Reparations

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pp. 217-241

The matter of the Lang real estate is dealt with separately from requisitions (immediate need) and restitution (replacement of movable and personal property) under the heading of reparations. This category also includes intangibles, such as loss of liberty, loss of health, emigration costs, loss of goodwill (assets = Vermögen), ...

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10. Jews in Jebenhausen and Göppingen

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pp. 242-278

The beautiful Adirondack community of Saranac Lake, New York, is home to Lilo Guggenheim Levine and her husband Mel.2 A serene community of year-round residents and numerous summer as well as winter tourists, Saranac Lake offers a well-rounded feast for the eyes, body, and spirit, an environment in which Lilo thrives. ...

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11. Kirchheim unter Teck

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pp. 279-284

On a clear day, one can see the Teck, remnants of a castle that belonged to the Duke von Teck in the Middle Ages, from anywhere within a hundred kilometers. Sticking up into the sky like a single finger, situated on a lonely butte, it is a famous and popular excursion spot in the summer and equally popular in the winter. ...

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12. Oberamt Geislingen

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pp. 285-290

The city of Geislingen, some 5.6 miles east of Süssen, is situated in a geographic cauldron surrounded by impressively high mountains that are dotted with castles. Most famous among them are the Ödenturm, a medieval watchtower, and the Helfenstein, the ruins of a castle belonging to the Counts of Helfenstein ...

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Conclusion

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pp. 291-298

April 4, 2008—A copy of a letter from Germany to Hugo Lang arrives in the mail, accompanied by a slightly exasperated note from Hugo that someone in Germany “after sixty-seven years . . . would like to return some items [to the Lang family].” Contrary to the well-intentioned gesture, Hugo is not pleased. What is this all about? ...

Notes

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pp. 299-376

Bibliography

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pp. 377-390

Glossary

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pp. 391-408

Index

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pp. 409-415


E-ISBN-13: 9780823246380
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823243297
Print-ISBN-10: 082324329X

Page Count: 236
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: World War II: The Global, Human, and Ethical Dimension (FUP)

Research Areas

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Subject Headings

  • Jews -- Germany -- Süssen -- History -- 20th century.
  • Lang family.
  • Jews -- Persecutions -- Germany -- Süssen.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Germany -- Süssen.
  • Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945) -- Germany -- Süssen -- Reparations.
  • Süssen (Germany) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Jebenhausen (Göppingen, Germany) -- Ethnic relations.
  • Kirchheim unter Teck (Germany) -- Ethnic relations.
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